In late 2016, David Ferris (organ-playing genius) and I (lost poet) concluded it’d be awesome if Birmingham’s equally thriving Poetry and Jazz scenes got together. We messaged peeps, made a sexy banner, and for reasons that are yours to discover, dear blog reader, we called the resulting night of unique collaborations Funkenteleky.
Funkenteleky is a space for spoken word artists and musicians to experiment and create something new together, in front of an equally open-minded audience. We ask each featured poet to make a specially decorated/modified copy of their work, that our musicians interpret as they improvise around the poet’s voice onstage. I reckon it’s this balance of spontaneity and engagement with the writing that leads to those special moments where everyone in the room seems to come together on a line, or a note, or a moment of silence. That little bit of indefinable magic in the air between us – the funkenteleky, perhaps.
Bringing down the curtain on Verve 2019 is a biggie, and we’ve got a lineup to match. Jasmine Gardosi and Bethany Slinn are renowned as two of Birmingham’s finest poets, and without wanting to add undue pressure (hahah), my magic 8 ball informs me they’ll be next level at this gig.
I’ve been a Kareem Parkins-Brown fan since Verve 2017. He’s got this way of combining the clarity of page poetry with hip-hop bars which I can only describe as gallingly brilliant. And Polarbear!? He’s a master storyteller, the Brum Spoken Word OG, and he’s well up for the gig – you simply don’t want to miss that.
Xhosa Cole our featured saxophonist is also a bit special. I recently saw him drop a standout set of jazz standards, and the next week steal the show at a neo-soul night. A spokesperson for the arts in Handsworth and across the city, we were already thrilled to have him – and then in November he went and won BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year. As you do. He’s backed by a trio of stellar improvising musicians – Ben Lee, Billy Weir, and the aforementioned David Ferris.
And opening the show… the perilously portmanteau’d Verveteleky Slam. This is a chance for poetry open mic-ers to get in on the spoken word experiment. The musicians double as our zero-preconceptions slam judges, and their rather unusual scoring criteria reward taking risks. The slam is your chance to try something new with your writing, performance or interaction with the audience – just as we seek to do with the whole night. It’s a platform for you to push the poetry boat out in a room that’s already onboard. Wahey. All conventional slam rule-breaking is highly encouraged. There’ll be limited entries available in advance and I hopes a few on the door.
So, that’s Funkenteleky. From a chance conversation to Verve 2019, via an obscure nod to Parliament-Funkadelic, the diverse talents of Birmingham, and some unrefined compering from yours truly. Come and be part of it!